released which describes the “American mosque” and the attitudes of mosque leaders.
The U.S. Mosque Study and a similar study were also conducted in 1994 and 2000 and the results from all three studies have been compared in the report. The study was conducted by Professor Ihsan Bagby from the University of Kentuckyand is part of a larger national
study called Faith Community Today (FACT) which covers a range of religious
congregations in America.
The U.S. Mosque Study was sponsored by various organizations, including the Hartford Seminary, Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies, International Institute of Islamic Thought, the Islamic Circle of North
America, the Islamic Society of North America, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
The study consisted of two parts, a mosque count and phone interviews with a large sample of mosque leaders throughout the country. This is the first report to be released from the study. Future reports include ones on Muslim women, mosque administration and imams, and mosque programs.
History of Mosques in the U.S.
The U.S. has seen a number of patterns when it comes to the Muslim population. The main growth in the overall Muslim population began in the 1960s and 1970s. The main reasons are that during this period there was an influx of immigrants from Arab and South Asian nations, and it was also the period when many African Americans were converting to Islam. Around the 1980s there was also an increase in immigration from Iran, and now there is an increase of refugees and immigrants from Somalia, West Africa, Iraq, and Bosnia.
The Muslim community is most likely the most diverse out of all American religious communities and therefore, with so many different ethnicities it is common to see various cultural groups establishing their own mosques.
Fifty-six percent of mosques were purchased. This means commercial and residential properties were purchased and then the spaces were converted to be used as mosques. However, since 2000, there has been a “boom in the construction of mosques” which is indicative of the fact that Muslims who had settled in earlier decades are now
financially sound to actually start constructing their own mosques, rather than purchasing other buildings.
Mosques that are now being built in suburban areas are following the old trend by continuing to be established from purchased properties due to the fact that they do not take loans with interest, because of religious restrictions. Therefore, they have to increase their memberships and raise the money before constructing new mosques.
A Brief Profile
The number of mosques in the U.S.has grown rapidly since the year 2000 to a current total of 2,106 mosques. The highest number is in New York, second in California, followed by Texas.
Several factors were discussed in the study that may be contributing to the growth. One factor is the rise of refugees and immigrants, as mentioned earlier, who are establishing their own culturally and linguistically focused mosques. Another factor is more Muslims are moving into areas of cities or suburbs that previously did not have
mosques, so they are establishing their own, rather than taking a long commute. A third factor is that the Muslim community is also highly diverse in ideology. Therefore, some groups or leaders are establishing mosques that reflect their specific thinking.
In addition to the number of mosques increasing, the number of Muslims attending/participating in mosques has also increased to a current count of 2.6 million. As implied, at Jum’ah, the Friday congregational prayer, and on the Eids, Islamic holidays, attendance has also increased.
Attitudes of Mosque Leaders
In phone interviews with the mosque leaders, they were asked various questions. One of the questions was which approach the leader uses when making an Islamic decision. The four approaches given ranged from a flexible, moderate interpretation of Islam to a more traditional, conservative interpretation. The majority of the leaders were gauged to follow a more flexible, moderate approach.
The leaders were also asked if they agreed with the statements that Muslims should be involved in American institutions and the political process. The majority of leaders agreed. Interestingly, African American leaders were
more reluctant and this was attributed to the fact that many of the leaders had converted to Islam in the 60s and 70s when mainstream political tension was very high and the process was seen as “corrupting and ineffective”. Thus, that sentiment may still be present.
Another question that garnered an interesting response is whether leaders agreed with the statement that American society is hostile towards Islam. In 2000, the majority of leaders agreed; however, in the new study, the majority of leaders actually disagreed.
In the interview, leaders explained that they felt the majority of the American people were not hostile, but rather Islamophobic groups were inciting hatred and keeping people ignorant of Islam. They added they are “treated well
by the people in their own area…Surprisingly, even mosque leaders who were embroiled in contentious neighborhood battles at the time of the interview recognized the many good people in the area, and therefore chose to disagree with the statement…”
Although some topics were covered in this article, the U.S. Mosque Study is a comprehensive study that covers a variety of topics including more interviews with mosque leaders, rates of people converting to Islam, and more
precise details of the topics mentioned here. Online copies of the full report can be found on www.isna.net, www.icna.org, and www.cair.com. Hard copies are available from ISNA and CAIR.
It is important that such studies continue to be conducted as a source of knowledge for all people. From studies like these, not only are people of other faiths learning about their Muslim neighbors, colleagues, community members, and fellow Americans, but Muslims are also learning about themselves and their role and place in American society. As the leaders in the study stated, hostility is not an issue, but rather ignorance. It can be said that this is true for both sides and the only solution is through education.